The integumentary system, compromised of the skin and its appendages such as hair, nails and exocrine glands, is responsible for acting as a barrier and protecting our bodies from any damage or disease, in addition to regulating body temperature. The skin consists of three layers: the top layer of skin known as the epidermis, the middle layer of skin known as the dermis, and the deepest layer of skin known as the hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue.
In this article, Dr. Ali Ghahary will discuss the common disorders associated with the integumentary system, including the signs and symptoms to watch for.
Skin cancer is one of the leading types of cancers in the world today, affecting more than 80,000 Canadians each year. Skin cancer occurs when normal skin cells change and form a mass known as a tumor.
There are three major types of skin cancer:
1. Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for 80 to 90 percent of diagnoses. Basal Cell Carcinoma is usually a result of overexposure to the sun or ultraviolet (UV) radiation. With BCC, patients may first notice changes in their skin such as an odd growth, changes in appearance of moles, skin wounds that do not heal and/or skin irritation. Basal Cell Carcinoma commonly affects the nose but it can also affect other areas of the body including the back, beck, chest, shoulders and head.
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the formation of a malignant tumour affecting the middle layer of skin, also known as the dermis. Similar to Basal Cell Carcinoma, you may notice changes to the skin including growths on the lips, mouth, tongue or genitals. Neglect of this condition can cause the cancer to spread. Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinoma is depending on the size of the tumour…however, the cure rate is high if treated early.
3. Malignant Melanoma
This is a less common form of skin cancer – however, it is the most aggressive and can be fatal due to its high tendency to spread to various parts of the body. Malignant Melanoma occurs when cells called the melanocytes grow out of control and form tumours.
Other diseases and disorders of the skin include congenital skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, bacterial skin conditions such as rosacea and impetigo, viral skin conditions such as warts and herpes zoster (also known as shingles), and fungal conditions such as boils and folliculitis. For more information on skin conditions and diseases, visit the Canadian Skin Patient Alliance website at http://www.canadianskin.ca.
You can also follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary.